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Moving piece—but what is to be done?

Adam Shatz continues to be one of The Nation’s best writers to deal with Palestine (Eric Alterman, conversely, annoys me to no end). I appreciated his latest piece “Writers or Missionaries,” though I am not totally sure of all the conclusions he comes to.

Whether as a political activist or writer, when one is doing work with people and situations outside of one’s experiences, listening is indeed important and shows respect. And using one’s critical thinking skills is also of paramount importance. The way that Shatz shows this in the article, through experiences in Palestine and Algeria, was moving. I am not sure what all the ossified and dogmatic aspects of anti-Orientalism (politically or academically) are, but if has become a program versus a guide, I can see that as problematic.

And sure, Shatz is correct that a number of US-based activists who do work around Palestine don’t work with a full view of all the myriad political and social forces at work that are at play in Palestine. Our political movements in this country could use a bit more sophistication in that regard. I have less of an idea of the point of saying that not all the “issues” are the fault of Israel or the United States. This is true, but I think most people on the left of any sophistication can see that Palestine would be clearly better off without the murderous colonization of Israel and funding of that colonization by Washington. That wouldn’t end all the problems of the world, but it would be great nonetheless/everthemore.

Like I wrote above, I appreciated aspects of the long piece, but would have appreciated some more clarity on what he expects from political activists, if he has a specific view.

Greg Hom

San Francisco

Jul 21 2014 - 5:24pm

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